better the second time around

March 11, 2016 Balazs Paroczay

boomerang hires are making a comeback among organizations facing talent scarcity

Everybody loves a comeback story, and it’s no different when it comes to talent. Numerous studies have shown that boomerang employees — top-performing hires who leave a company for another employer and then later return — are some of the most effective and committed workers at their companies. At a time when great talent is increasingly difficult to find and engage, organizations are opening their doors to former workers.

Several recent studies affirm the value of boomerang workers and how employers view them. Last year, the Corporate Culture and Boomerang Employee Study, conducted by HR software service provider Kronos and WorkplaceTrends.com, found that 76% of HR professionals surveyed said their companies are welcoming back former employees who left on good terms. This was a significant change from their previous policies, when nearly half prohibited their return.

In an earlier study, a University of Illinois researcher reported that returning employees have more to offer second time around. T. Brad Harris, a professor of labor and employment relations, concluded that boomerang employees are both less risky and more easily integrated into their former workplaces. Furthermore, they are more committed upon their return because “they've learned firsthand that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.”

And according to John Sullivan, a noted HR thought-leader and author, boomerang employees produce the second-highest quality of new hires (referrals from top-performing employees ranked first). Returning workers also account for a significant number of hires, Sullivan wrote on eremedia.com. He noted that some top firms such as Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Booz Allen and others recruit as many as 16% ofhires through their boomerang programs.

rehires make sense

Rehiring workers who left on good terms makes sense. As Harris pointed out, these employees already have a grounded understanding of the company’s culture on day one of their return. They also require less handholding to navigate the organization, making their induction more efficient which, in turn, enables them to become productive more quickly.

They also bring back more experience and a fresher perspective, which can strengthen the employer’s practices and operations. Having observed best practices elsewhere, they can leverage this insight upon rejoining the organization, possibly providing a competitive advantage. Additionally, they serve as effective ambassadors whose network may be fertile grounds for recruiting other strong performers.

Another critical consideration is boomerang employees sometimes bring customers or at least promising leads. It’s one more way they have proven to be productive more quickly.

With a demonstrated record of success, boomerang hires are ideal recruitment targets, but surprisingly only a minority of companies have formal programs to attract their former workers. Even though more companies are relaxing their policies to encourage talent to return, very few actively pursue them. Many organizations still attach a stigma to boomerang workers and view them as disloyal. But as Harris’ research revealed, many workers leave for personal reasons, initiated by perhaps a life event, spousal relocation or some other cause unrelated to job satisfaction.

Recruiting boomerangs can be difficult as it requires an employer to actively engage its alumni. Successful programs need dedicated resources, and winning back employees may take some time. Nevertheless, the rewards seem to be drawing more companies to takea second look at these workers.

So how can you tap into your alumni? The most successful organizations go beyond an ad hoc group; they operate a dedicated program to keep departed workers engaged and interested. These companies maintain an open-door policy that encourages workers to consider a return should they decide to make a career change. Successful companies understand that by establishing a friendly relationship with former employees, they strengthen their employer brand and nurture more ambassadors to the market.

So how can your organization emulate their success? Consider these effective tips:

  • Formalize your boomerang efforts and appoint a program leader to oversee execution.
  • Create an alumni network to facilitate your outreach.
  • Identify high-performing alumni to track.
  • Take an inclusive approach that captures all former workers, including both permanent and contingent talent.
  • Enhance engagement through regular communications, whether that’s a company newsletter or social media.
  • Leverage LinkedIn to flag former employees considering a career change (they typically will update their profiles before making the leap).
  • Identify the reasons why boomerang employees left and look for ways to shore up these gaps to encourage workers to stay.

Boomerang hires can be a great source of talent for your organization. By ensuring you leave communication channels open and these relationships warm, you improve your chances of hiring talent that may bring even more value to your organization the second time around.

About the Author

Balazs Paroczay

Balazs is a sourcing leader who is passionate about talent acquisition, innovation, and creating best-in-class talent resourcing strategies. His solid knowledge of both active and passive candidate sourcing tools, techniques, and methodologies are widely used throughout the EMEA region.His specialized skills include: Boolean search, social networking, search engines, X-raying, headhunting, direct search, name search, social engineering, passive candidate sourcing and much more.

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